TV - Sneaky Pete

Sneaky Pete

Susan Omand discovers a new flavour of television as she watches Sneaky Pete on Amazon Prime...

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with pilot episodes, especially those where you don't know if they are going to be picked up as a full series. It's kind of like limited edition ice-cream flavours in that you don't want to try them in case you really like them, only to discover that, in two weeks, your triple choc dipped dark chocolate ice-cream with white chocolate chunks and chocolate swirls is going to be replaced by frozen cappuccino barf with marzipan sprinkles. Anyway, I digress. Looking for something to watch, I took a punt on Sneaky Pete, only finding out after I'd decided to watch that it was just a pilot...

"An idyllic childhood of long hot summer days, green fields, tyre swings that granddad always fixed up for him and apples the taste of which you wouldn’t believe" that’s basically how Pete describes his young life before prison to his cellmate, a conman called Marius, who is in for 3 years. Marius, however, is getting out in two days, whereas Pete still has at least two years left to go, after holding up a gun range at gunpoint, before he is even considered for parole. Life on the outside for Marius will not be quite as rosy as it should be as he still owes nasty people big money, “a little over $100 grand,” according to his kid brother Eddie. Eddie advises him to live off the grid when he gets out, otherwise they’ll be after him. So Marius concocts an idea and spends his last 24 hours in jail learning as much as possible about Pete’s idyllic childhood, his grandparents their bonds business and the farm they lived on. He manages sweet talk the driver into getting off the prison bus early, thereby missing the heavies that are waiting for him at the official stop and then heads for the country and the farm where he introduces himself to Pete’s family... as Pete.

However Pete/Marius soon discovers the slightly rose tinted view that the real Pete had of the family when he finds out the family “bonds” business is in bail bonds and that Pete’s cousin and best buddy Taylor is a cop. On hearing that the family business is in need of a “skip tracer” tracking down other criminals who have skipped bail he has to make a decision. Does he pick up his former life on the streets of New York, dodging the heavies he owes money to, or does he start again with his “old” new family, chasing the heavies that he should be dodging?

Marius is played by Giovanni Ribisi, who I recognised from My Name is Earl and (whisper it) Friends, where he was Phoebe’s brother. Both these characters have a more than shady outlook on life, so he must have “that kind of face” or something, however he was incredibly well cast in this as he managed to carry the swagger of an out and out conman while still managing to hold on to some humanity and struggle with the moral dilemmas he finds himself in. The other notable regular member of the cast for now is Grandma, played by Margo Martindale as a strong and loyal family woman who you would not dare cross. What Grandma says goes and, when she asks Pete/Marius to stay and help out the family, he really doesn’t have any option, although he is concerned that she is suspicious he is an imposter. His cousin Julia, who works the bail business with Pete, is played by Marin Ireland who is the perfect poker straight, by the book foil for the sneaky character of the eponymous Sneaky Pete. Add into this a marvellous cameo by Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston and you have the makings of a fantastic series that could be killed by a dodgy script. It’s in very very safe hands though, as the writer, of the pilot at least, is the wonderful David Shore, who was responsible as creator, writer and exec producer for House MD, and already the dry humour, pathos and brilliant characterisation is shining through.

As I said at the start, this is only the pilot episode of the series but the great news is that it has been greenlit for the full series so, instead of dodgy ice-cream, we have much to look forward to in the building of a “family” dynamic as the new Pete tries to find his place again in a place where he never belonged to start with.

Definitely worth watching the pilot now so you’re ready once the full series appears.

Image - Amazon

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